| Safaris cost a lot. A family may have to spend USD 15,000 or more for
a one-week safari tour. But safari-goers do pay. To some, the safari may be a
dream finally coming true. To many, it's a once in a lifetime tour. Under these
circumstances, you want a good tour.|
Many safari-goers have never before visited
Africa south of the Sahara, so it's hard for them to evaluate and compare the
tours offered by various tour companies. It can even be hard to figure out what
kind of tour you want, as you don't know what's possible to arrange. As a result,
you may have to rely on the knowledge of the tour companies. Under these circumstances,
you want to speak to and book with a trustworthy company, of course.
A good tour company recently told me it has problems with competitors
copying its text and pictures from brochures and its web site, to use it to support
their own marketing. That's violating copyright, which is bad enough. But it also
means that the basis for good and fair competition is compromised.
| Information a means of competition|
safari-goers' need of knowledge makes information on safaris and safari destinations
an important means of competition for tour companies. Good information may attract
clients and make them rely on your company. But the competition isn't always honest.
travel companies and local tour operators copy and use text and pictures owned
by other companies, i.e. violate copyrights. Others bend the truth to make themselves
and their tours look more attractive. Yet others try to do the same by telling
Safari guide Henrik Hult
on honesty and dishonesty
and dishonest tour companies
An honest company spends resources and costs
on developing and presenting good and usable information to the benefit of potential
safari-goers and clients. Doing so, it also displays its expertise.
company that copies and uses that information saves itself from spending resources
and costs, may be breaking the law, and deludes its clients that it, too, posesses
The copying itself gives reason to question the expertise.
Such a company hasn't shown itself to possess it. Presenting information that
someone else has written, booking air tickets and selling tour packages isn't
being a safari specialist. Any travel agent can do that.
Strutting in their
borrowed plumes, the dishonest companies may appear competent enough in the eyes
of their clients, though. They may even, after having saved themselves expenses,
offer lower prices than their honest competitors.
Rubbing off on the
I assume that the dishonest companies call themselves competent when
speaking with their clients. If they are, the question is why they don't develop
their own good safari information instead of stealing it. Don't they think that
right and wrong matters? Are they incapable of making a true effort? Do they lack
resources enough to run their business without dirty tricks? If so, I hope none
of this rubs off on the tours bought by their clients.
I don't intend to
diminish the mental capacity of safari-goers. They do, of course, speak to the
travel company before booking and spending all that money, and don't rely on tour
presentations on web sites only. But many safari-goers are beginners. It's not
easy for them to tell good competence from faked competence, especially not when
speaking to a good salesman.
Text and pictures have been copied without
permission from my own safari web sites, too. Four out of the eight exhibitors
that are specialised in East African safaris on the upcoming TUR 2010, the largest
tourism trade fair in Sweden, have copied from my sites. When visiting web sites
of travel companies, I often find text copied also from other companies.
are hosts of international safari web sites, and keeping track of them and their
contents, to combat copyright infringements, is virtually impossible. Even harder
is finding out companies that copy text and translate it into other languages,
for use in other markets.
Dishonesty in facts
A different kind
of problem is travel companies being dishonest with facts. Below follow two examples.
common example of not telling everything that the client actually would like to
know is saying that a camp or lodge is located in, for example, "the Serengeti
area". Which it is. But it's not inside Serengeti National Park, which is
what the owner wants the reader to believe. The actual location is in a surrounding
area outside of the park, which is less attractive.
A local company in Tanzania
that owns a number of camps writes on its web site that its camp by southern Lake
Manyara is the only place in East Africa where you can see huge migrating herds
of tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebras. The text admits that there are
such herds also in other areas, but you won't see them very well there because
of much vegetation.
This isn't correct. The company knows very well that
the number of migrating wildebeest and zebras in the Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem
is a hundred times larger, that they can be seen very well there in the open plains,
and that the Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem is a much better place to see huge
migrating herds than the area around its Lake Manyara camp. But it writes a different
story that makes better marketing, and which may trick safari-goers into staying
in the camp.
Right and wrong
Neither myself nor anyone else who
works with facts in text will get everything correct all the time. Sometimes sources
are unclear or even incorrect. Sometimes mistakes are made. Sometimes facts change,
making what used to be correct incorrect, for example when a lodge is renamed
all of a sudden by new owners. But the ambition of ours has to be to write facts
correctly, and to make corrections as soon as we find out that something is wrong.
Anyone who's deliberately twisting facts, or leaves out relevant facts because
the story is more favourable to business without them, tries to delude readers
and potential clients.
It's sometimes hard to say what's right and wrong,
though. There has to be room for opinions among safari companies, too. A problem
is that the clients may not be able to evaluate the reasons given for those opinions.
difference between a tent and a tent
For example, how do you describe
to a client how he or she would experience the difference if camping or staying
in a tented camp during a safari? In terms of money, the difference may be USD
500 or more on the tour price. But what's the difference in experiencing it?
tour company that sells camping safaris would of course promote camping, i.e.
the lower priced option. Descriptions such as "true bush experience",
"close to nature" and "real safari atmosphere" may be used.
Other descriptions, such as "uncomfortable", "may be cold and dirty"
and "there may be a busload of 30 partying Swedes staying in the same camping
site", may be omitted.
The tour company that sells stays in tented
camps, i.e. the higher priced option, may use descriptions such as "true
bush experience", "close to nature" and "real safari atmosphere".
(Yes, that's the same as above.) And fail to mention that the camp is surrounded
by an electric fence, has paved paths to the restaurant, and has a 100 tents built
on concrete platforms. If your tent is in the middle of it all you'll be closer
to the pool bar than to nature.
The safari of your dreams
above that safari-goers, lacking previous experience from safaris and Africa,
may have to rely on the knowledge of the tour companies. And that you of course
want to speak to and book with a trustworthy company.
The problem is to
find such a company, and to avoid those that parasitize on the work of their competitors
or that aren't truthful to clients. Word of mouth is a good start ask your
friends. And then look for a tour company that listens to you and tries to understand
what you really want to experience in Africa. That may be your company.
company can specialize in safaris, but that doesn't make it a safari specialist.
Being a safari specialist takes a lot of competence and experience. A company
that rather tries to sell this week's special offer than the safari of your dreams
probably isn't much of a specialist.